Monday

20th Jan 2020

Blair EU candidacy on menu of Merkel-Sarkozy dinner

A working dinner in Paris between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday (28 October) night is likely to include the issue of the next EU president, with the British government still pressing for Tony Blair.

Just hours after her formal re-appointment as chancellor by the German parliament, Ms Merkel is due to dine in the Elysee palace in Paris, with speculations running wild on whom she will back as the EU's future president once the Lisbon Treaty comes into force.

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  • Angela Merkel has so far kept silent on Mr Blair's EU bid (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

So far, she has kept silent over British ex-prime minister Tony Blair's EU bid. "Ms Merkel will not reveal her cards until the very last moment. She always does it like that," an EU diplomat told this website.

Unlike her, Mr Sarkozy initially signalled support for Mr Blair, only to discover some "problems" later, over Britain's non-membership in the eurozone. On Monday, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner again expressed support for Mr Blair, saying "as your humble servant, I am backing Tony Blair." But the French fluctuations are likely to end once Mr Sarkozy will know what Ms Merkel wants.

Some smaller member states – notably the Benelux countries and Austria – are wary of a Franco-German-British deal on the head of the EU and are backing the Luxembourg Prime Minister and the chairman of the eurozone group, Jean-Claude Juncker, instead.

From across the Channel, Gordon Brown still hopes he can convince the French and German leaders to agree to Mr Blair. His foreign secretary David Miliband actively campaigned for Mr Blair during the foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. According to official sources quoted by The Telegraph, London believes Ms Merkel will back the former UK leader if she gets to choose EU's next top diplomat, who will get extra powers once the Lisbon Treaty comes into force.

"We believe the French and Germans are holding out for the best possible deal they can get out of this situation. But we think Ms Merkel will agree if she gets [to choose who takes] the foreign job and Sarkozy will also be after a significant position," the unnamed British official said.

France is said to be eyeing the internal market portfolio for its former commissioner, Michel Barnier.

Officially, the issue of the EU president and the top foreign policy job will not be on the agenda of the European Council starting Thursday afternoon, as the Czech president will only be able to sign the Lisbon Treaty after a verdict of the Constitutional Court on 3 November. But some back-door diplomacy and horse-trading are still likely to take place.

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